Sometimes days will go by without an Uber story worthy of a blog post. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. One thing I like about driving for Uber is the variety of experiences that can be had in a short time. Take the other night for example.
It was slow overall. There were long stretches of waiting for a ping. Although I was out for more than six hours, I only had eight completed rides. Nothing shocking or hilarious. Just different and varied.
First, I picked up Andrew from EquiKids–a therapeutic riding program for handicapped children. Andrew is a volunteer there. He is an autistic adult who looks after the horses. He had a tidy beard and wore wire-framed glasses. He spoke in a soft, gentle voice, and made elaborate gestures and sound effects when he couldn’t find the right words, but he was an eager conversationalist. Andrew struggles to balance paying work with his volunteer work at the stables. If he had his choice, he’d work with horses all day long.
I can’t describe Aaron very well. He came out of a darkened driveway wearing a hat and a hoodie and took the seat immediately behind me. He was definitely a young guy who, after a pleasant enough greeting, got on his phone and talked the whole short ride.
“Yo, bro, I ditched for real…Going home, bro!…Cuz there were cops, that’s why bro…Bro, I wasn’t doing nothing, bro. Just taking a pee…Yo, bro, for real. I was taking a pee by a tree and these dudes tryin’ to mess with me…Bro…Bro…No, not Davante. No, not Jason. That other dude…Whatever, bro. Bro, I’m taking a pee and the dude punches me for no reason. I don’t know what his problem is. So, you know, I hit him back, but, bro, I don’t know how many there are, so I ducked out…Bro, I ain’t lyin’…Somebody said something about the cops and I ditched…I’m in a Uber, bro…”
The conversation continued until I dropped him off. No lights on at the house, but he didn’t approach the door anyway. When I pulled away, he was still talking on the phone under a tree in the front yard.
My next ride was long, but quiet. Alex was a tall Asian–about twenty years old. He was going to a Christmas party at a Vietnamese restaurant owned by his family. He’s been working there for several years. It was all the way in Newport News though, so we had a good thirty-minute ride together. Alex was clearly an introvert though. He seemed to tire quickly of my questions. Like Aaron, he took the seat immediately behind me–usually a sign that he’s not interested in a chat. He was nice, but after he told me about the restaurant, we just listened to the radio in silence.
I drove all the way back to Norfolk before I got another ping. It was for a pickup at the airport. David had just returned from a ski trip to Idaho with some buddies. He lived in Newport News, so I headed right back where I had come from, northeast on 64. He sat up front and talked about fresh snow and Idaho mountains and the best skiing of his life. Then we found out we were both Philadelphia fans and the conversation turned to mutual commiseration about the Eagles’ disappointing season.
Again, I didn’t get a ride on the way back until I got near the airport. Then I got a ping to pick up Paula at Gate Five. But when I arrived, Paula texted to inform me that I was actually picking up her friend, Dan.
Dan was a short, white-bearded guy with a huge suitcase. I was relieved to find that he didn’t need to go to Newport News. But he did need to get way out in Portsmouth. Dan is from the area but has lived in California since getting out of college twenty-some years ago. He was home to visit family for the holidays. He had played soccer at Bayside, then at the University of South Carolina, then in several professional leagues before beginning his career as a soccer coach. He had coached at Cal Berkley and the University of San Francisco, but now works with U.S. soccer.
I asked him what the future of U.S. soccer looks like and he gave me a long, passionate, and convincing answer. In summary–it doesn’t look good.
He also gave me a brief and interesting history of his parent’s part of Portsmouth. Dan was a really interesting passenger.
My next passenger was Steve. He was short too, but stocky and athletic. A sailor who’d been drinking (surprise!). He sat up front too. In halting, slurred sentences, he asked what I did other than driving for Uber. I told him I taught in an online program.
“How’d you get into that?” he asked.
“I used to teach in a public high school in Chesapeake.”
“And you got the f– out of there?”
“Well, not because I didn’t like it. I left to go into full-time church ministry for a while. Then I started working full-time with homeschoolers…”
“Whoa…Hold on right there…Now I’ve got a million questions.”
“About what? Homeschooling? Teaching?”
“About God and sh–.”
Oh. You mean because I was a pastor. Sure. Ask away.
“I don’t know where to start…”
“Start anywhere you like.”
“Okay, I was raised a Catholic, okay? And I believe in God and sh–. For real. I want to live for God and and all that sh–. But the f–ing Catholic Church is…it’s f–ing bullsh–, man, you know?”
“What don’t you like about the Catholic Church?”
“Those motherf–ers are full of sh–, that’s what.”
It’s hard to make this clear, but Steve wasn’t angry. He didn’t seem bitter. He just talked with a constant stream of profanity. You know–like a sailor. He had some kind of vague disapproval of his Catholic upbringing, but he knew God was real and he thought it was time to get right about religion.
“I mean, I want to f–ing live for God, but I love this girl, see, and I want to f–ing live for her too. Know what I mean? And I like to f–ing drink. Too much, probably.”
Steve admitted that he had a drinking problem, and I encouraged him to get some help for it. When we got to his house, I gave him an invitation card to our church.
“It’s non-denominational?” he asked, pronouncing the word surprisingly well.
“Yeah. You should visit sometime. Just ask for the Uber guy. They’ll point you my way and we can sit together. Bring your girlfriend. But even if you don’t, listen. One thing Jesus said was If you seek, you will find. And I believe that. If you want to know more about God, all you have to do is sincerely seek him. Doesn’t have to be at my church.”
“Okay. Thanks. That’s f–ing awesome.”
He didn’t leave right away. Steve wanted to keep talking, parked in his driveway. Nothing in particular. Nothing he could articulate, really. He just lingered like he wanted to say something, but couldn’t remember what. Eventually, he shook my hand and said goodbye.
Matt was at a 7-Eleven and only needed a short ride to a storage unit he was working out of. It was one in the morning, but he was busy on a fireplace grating he was welding as a Christmas present for a friend.
“You wanna see it?” he asked.
I followed him in after he lifted the garage door. It was a sprawling, messy art studio
“Sorry, I didn’t clean up for you.”
“That’s cool. I just popped in unannounced, after all.”
The grating was nearly finished. It featured a large blue marlin. He showed me some detail he was planning to add to the fins from some scrap metal. Honestly, it looked beautiful.
“That’s really nice work, Matt. Thanks for giving me a look.”
“Sure, man. Swing by whenever you’re in the neighborhood!”
This was going to be my last ride, and to my surprise, another guy’s name popped up. I was going to pick up a David. But when I arrived at the house, a woman got in the front seat.
“You don’t look like a David,” I said.
“Ha. I hear that a lot,” she said. “David’s my dad. He worries about me when I’m out drinking. He always gets me an Uber.”
“Sounds like a good dad.”
“Yeah. He is.”
“Honestly, I’m glad. I’ve had nothing but guys all night. You’re my first female passenger.”
“Really? That’s weird. Kind of boring.”
“Actually, it wasn’t boring. It was a really interesting night.”
I gave her a quick run down of my seven previous rides. Nothing amazing. Just seven unique uman beings.